08 November 2007

No equal

Verdi LA TRAVIATA, Met 07.XI.2007; c. Armiliato; Fleming, Polenzani, Croft.

Busy, busy busy ... but finally I found myself back again at the opera house, in time to take in possibly Renee Fleming's greatest operatic achievement to date. Her Violetta, a grand display of all the carats in her voice, is also very disciplined and painfully thorough. Her sterling voice and mature stage deportment come out to you in brilliant technicolor spectra, this time amidst unremarkable backdrop: Matthew Polenzani, whose sweet and open top notes regrettably come with a middle register of dull and uncultivated quality, and who acts like he's trying really hard to act; Dwayne Croft, who should thank his wig's grey streaks for making him appear more imposing than his voice suggests; Maestro Marco Armiliato, who didn't carry a score to the podium, instead taking his cues from his singers' dual gluttony for meandering tempi and for excessive fermatas, tawdry pedestals meant only to shamelessly exhibit vocal jewels. Thus everyone was in complete agreement that the evening was all about Renee Fleming, and if that's the case, I thought, well, so be it-- let us receive the grace in full, be joyful and glad ... Oh how she handled Violetta's multifarious vocal and dramatic challenges with equal command! Her coloratura, always brilliantly executed, was also less mannered this time around. Her ravishing lyric, spun with the most delicate gestures, choked me up in "Dite alla giovine" and "Alfredo di questo core". Her spinto, in places like "Gran Dio! morir si giovane", which she let out in terrifying fortissimo and in a single f*cking breath (!), pushed me to the precipice. This is a supreme achievement, indeed. There is simply no question in Sieglinde's mind that (a) she owns this touchstone role, (b) by all accounts she appears to still possess the capacity to churn out such Violetta perfection for many years to come (so dropping it from her rep, as reported, is mystifying), and (c) her voice, contrary to her clamorous naysayers (you know who you are), is just getting better and better. The last part is especially thrilling, for she has plans to bring new things to New York in the coming seasons: her Thais (already a success elsewhere), her Armida (cf. the Sony recording, orgasmic but from a performance from the last ice age), her capricious Countess, perhaps (if chatter is to be believed) only postponing her Norma for a later time-- indeed, with this fine porcelain betraying absolutely no crazing, she can afford to take her time.

[An apology: You know how Sieglinde can just go on and on about Renee, but I'm terribly busy these days, with grant proposals to write and manuscripts to finish. Also, I'm seeing more of this Traviata--are you kidding--so there shall be more opportunity to dissect and worship.]